GREENE — Residents told SAD 52 directors Thursday night that the 2012-13 budget was defeated last week, in part, because it was too high and positions were eliminated at the same time raises were handed out.
Approximately 50 residents attended the school board meeting at Greene Central School Gym to discuss why the $23 million-plus spending proposal was rejected by less than 10 percent of voters in Greene, Leeds and Turner. The May 9 vote was 172-182. The budget is nearly $300,000 more than this year's budget.
Directors appeared surprised when many in attendance said they opposed the budget because of the staffing cuts and because it was too much money.
Board Chairman Elizabeth Bullard said it was the duty of the board to do due diligence in re-evaluating the budget. She said while many residents have told her the board should reduce the budget, no one has ever made a specific recommendation on where cuts should be made.
Darlene Zupancic said she opposed the staffing cuts.
"I don't want to take away from the kids. I think they should put the money back in and let the taxes go up," said the mother of a high school senior and a sixth-grader.
While she did not vote in the first referendum, she said she definitely will vote at the next budget meeting June 5 and final referendum June 12.
Resident Brenda Terrio attributed the budget rejection to failure to fully explain the board's decisions. She said she had trouble with some getting raises while others got "pink slips." She said the board erred in eliminating the volunteer coordinators.
"If you find things to cut, so be it. If not, come back and tell us why," she said.
Woodsman Nat Bell urged the board to rethink the education process and become more efficient.
"There is more than one way to skin a cat," he said. "While teachers work hard, other people work hard, too, he said, and must find ways to compensate for lost income."
Resident Steven Goulet said he's seen the school budget go from $6 million to $23 million.
He put the blame for much of the increase on the teachers' unions.
"Teachers only have to work 125 days a year while most people work 356," he said. "The towns need input on the union negotiations," he said. And comparing salaries to other areas instead of local incomes is misleading, he added.
"Some of you think the budget is too low. I don't know where you live or what you have for a paycheck," he said.
With the large number of kids dropping out of school, it's obvious that throwing money at the schools was not working, he said.
School board member Peter Ricker said the board should present a budget that's $50,000 to $100,000 less. Other members supported the move.
However, one resident pointed out that a $50,000 to $100,000 cut in a $300,000 increase is still a higher budget.
School board member Diana Morgan said she thought directors had proposed a good budget.
"Any additional cuts will cut into programming," she said.
Superintendent Henry Alberti urged residents to attend the school board's budget workshop at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 23, at the Leeds Central School.
A district budget meeting will be held at 6 p.m. June 5 at Leavitt Area High School in Turner, followed by a final referendum on June 12 in each town.